Michelle & Arlene – Holiday Special – Accidental Theatre – Review by Cathy Brown
Michelle and Arlene Holiday Special: Planes Trains and Tractors
Given the political situation in Northern Ireland at the moment, or the lack thereof, you might think that there isn’t a lot to laugh about, particularly with the stalemate between Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill and their respective parties.
Stormont may be sleeping, but satire never rests and in Rosemary Jenkinson’s brash, up-to-the-minute farce, she imagines what might happen if these two women took a more unorthodox approach to their political negotiations.
Arlene and Michelle have locked themselves into Stormont on 22 December and have vowed to stay there until they have thrashed out an agreement. Realising the unlikelihood of this ever happening, they bunk off on a flight to Bulgaria for a sneaky holiday, but things go wrong when their luggage is stolen and they have to make their way back to Stormont for a Christmas Day press conference.
Following on from Rapid Response: Michelle and Arlene, where the two women headed off to Ibiza, Accidental Theatre present this Christmas themed show, which takes our pair across Europe on another Thelma and Louise style road trip. The European setting allows for a rash of Brexit jokes; a dodgy deal with a Bulgarian property developer and even a Nativity scene of sorts, all delivered with glee by the two actors.
Maria Connolly plays Arlene with gusto – all darting eyes, pursed lips and repressed sexuality. Mary-Francis Doherty presents a more one-dimensional Michelle, the blond puppet politician, more worried about the tats in her hair than any lasting political agreement.
In between the short scenes, clever back projection charts the pair’s journey from Stormont and back again. The script is sharp and up to date, featuring references to wood pellets, Prince William’s wedding and the Brexit negotiations. With audience participation, quick fire scene changes and a thin plot, there isn’t much room for subtlety but this is an all-out farce, with broad humour, topical references and Lord Carson power poses. Think Saturday Night Live by way of Give My Head Peace!
Artistic Director Richard Laverty has vowed to create more pieces like this one, in response to the frustrating political inaction in Northern Ireland at the moment and there is a real sense of excitement about the work being done in this new space at 12 – 13 Shaftesbury Square. Run by Accidental Theatre and Amadan, the venue might be rough and ready, but it is vibrant and necessary. They are passionate about offering a different kind of theatrical experience in Northern Ireland and that is to be applauded.